Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a revelation for many reasons, but even beyond the dazzling animation and deft storytelling, Shameik Moore’s vocal performance as Miles Morales stands out. From the film’s first moments, in which Miles mumbles along to “Sunflower,” Moore is magnetic. His voice exudes the kind of ease and relatability that other would-be leading men would kill for.
That charm is Let It Snow’s secret weapon. The movie, now on Netflix, falls neatly into the time-honored tradition of holiday-based ensemble romantic comedies (Love Actually, Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve) as it follows a group of young adults and their respective romantic woes through the Christmas season. Based on Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle’s intertwined anthology Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances, the film (written by Kay Cannon, Victoria Strouse, and Laura Solon, and directed by Luke Snellin) goes through ups and downs in accordance with its respective storylines’ strengths and weaknesses.
In one story, Tobin (Mitchell Hope) pines after his longtime best friend, Angie (Kiernan Shipka), who doesn’t seem to return his romantic affections. In another, Dorrie (Liv Hewson) struggles to balance her crush on cheerleader Tegan (Anna Akana) with her concerns for her best friend Addie (Odeya Rush), who worries her boyfriend might be cheating on her. In the last, Julie (Isabela Merced) has a chance encounter with pop star Stuart (Moore), whose life seems charmed in comparison to hers; she’s been accepted into Columbia University, but can’t imagine leaving her ailing mother behind. And in the thread that ties them all together, Keon (Jacob Batalon) prepares to go to any lengths necessary to throw the best Christmas party of all time.
The first and last of those storylines are mostly disposable, apart from a sweet jock (Matthew Noszka) who competes with Tobin for Angie’s affection, and Billy (Miles Robbins) as Keon’s über-chill manager. The others venture into relatively new territory, as Dorrie’s frustrations aren’t at all tied to her sexuality. Hers is an old story — crush playing hot and cold, making it impossible to figure out whether there’s actually something there — finally told through a new lens. And Julie and Stuart have to reckon with the pressures of fame and social media, as well as the inherent privilege that comes with success and money.
Julie and Stuart’s actual romance is the least convincing, but that’s irrelevant because Moore comes across as so charming. When Stuart’s manager (D’Arcy Carden) shows up late in the film, she notes that every girl he interacts with falls in love with him. While that’s bad news for Julia, it’s easy to believe. All the sincerity and vulnerability that made Moore’s Miles Morales such a powerful protagonist is back on full display. Even the scene where he tells Julie that his fame means people feel free to talk to him as if he isn’t human is affecting instead of leaden. It doesn’t hurt that his real face is finally on screen, too.
But Julie and Stuart are only a third of the action. No single storyline in this collection digs particularly deep, and each story has at least one person storming off before returning to reconcile at the last minute. Let It Snow relies more on its cast’s charisma than on its script, and while that tactic pays off with Moore and Hewson, it can’t carry an entire movie. Joan Cusack as a tinfoil-hatted, snowplow-driving semi-guardian angel doesn’t help, as her presence is never really explained, apart from being a convenient way to help characters get from point A to point B without cars.
But, sometimes, a deus ex machina fits fine with the expected upbeat, sentimental vibe of the Christmas season. Let It Snow sneaks a few new details into old stories, and has a bopping single — Moore singing “First Christmas (That I Loved You)” — which perfectly encapsulates the film’s appeal. The song won’t change pop music, but Moore holds down the fort, helping lift it up to something that wouldn’t be out of place on this year’s Christmas playlists. In the exact same way, while the film isn’t groundbreaking, it’s an easygoing, unchallenging experience that’s suitable for the season.
Let It Snow is streaming on Netflix now.
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